Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same but the triggers may be different.
Allergic Asthma Triggers
Allergic asthma, or allergy-induced asthma, is the most common form of asthma. If your asthma is allergic, your symptoms are most often triggered by inhaling allergens. An allergen is a typically harmless substance such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold.
If you are allergic to a substance, this allergen triggers a response starting in the immune system. Through a complex reaction, these allergens then cause the passages in the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and swollen. This results in coughing, wheezing and other asthma symptoms.
Exposure to allergens may trigger the symptoms, but the real culprit in allergic asthma is the IgE antibody. The IgE antibody is produced by the body in response to allergen exposure. The combination of the antibody with allergens results in the release of potent chemicals called mediators. The mediators cause inflammation and swelling of the airways, resulting in symptoms of asthma.
Other Asthma Triggers
Some people with asthma do not have allergies. Asthma symptoms may also be triggered by exercise, viral or bacterial infections, cold air or by related conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Knowing if your asthma is allergic is essential for taking control of your condition. Given the relationship between allergies and asthma, an allergist / immunologist is the best qualified physician to diagnose your symptoms and help you manage your asthma.
The AAAAI's Find an Allergist / Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.
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This article has been reviewed by Thanai Pongdee, MD, FAAAAI